Creators unite! Cloud-based platforms connect people, processes, and data


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Across industries, platform technologies make companies more efficient, sustainable, and innovative

Cloud-based platforms with open ecosystems help harness collaborative problem solving and innovation. Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC); manufacturing; and media and entertainment industries will all benefit from connected and automated processes, both upstream and downstream.

A man and a woman in safety gear looking at tablet on construction site.

Managing architecture, engineering, and construction projects in the cloud keeps teams connected with shared data, which enables seamless collaboration and as little error as possible.

An age of collaborative innovation

Everyone has experienced some sort of disruption these past few years. I’m not just talking about the global pandemic. Climate change, fractured supply chains, inflation, and labor shortages are shaking things up around the world.

But although the word disruption has negative connotations, it also creates opportunities to do things in different ways. Disruption forces people to rethink, reimagine, and reinvent. Right now, digital transformation is accelerating, and exciting technologies are emerging. That’s led to new ways of collaborating and spurred an age of innovation.

Harnessing genius

Dr. Linda A. Hill, a professor at the Harvard Business School, certainly sees it this way. She has done extensive research on innovation, leadership, and digital transformation, and she knows exactly what helps digitally mature companies succeed. “Innovation is not about solo genius; it’s about collective genius,” Dr. Hill said in her TedxCambridge talk. “It’s a type of collaborative problem solving usually among people who have different expertise and different points of view.”

To thrive in today’s world, organizations can harness that collective genius by moving to cloud-based platforms. The best platforms are open, collaborative environments that bring data, people, and processes together. They are the pinnacle of digital transformation, and they’re on track to disrupt the status quo and change the world.

A video editing station with two screens.

Today’s media and entertainment workflows, which involve hundreds of people and hundreds of terabytes of data, require centralized asset-management systems like Autodesk Flow to maintain project continuity.

Why cloud-based platforms? Why now?

For too long, collaboration has been hampered by closed tools that lock data into proprietary file formats. Different software programs couldn’t communicate, workflows were disconnected, and people had to access massive files to search for the information they needed. These old ways of working don’t apply anymore.

On a platform, people, processes, and data are connected in an open ecosystem. Information can flow upstream and downstream for full visibility. Real-time workflows are automated and extensible. Data is granular, so people can access the exact information they need when they need it. Having a single, collaborative environment delivers greater value to stakeholders and builds resilience. And there’s no greater story of resilience than the city of New Orleans.

Fighting climate change from the cloud

Meagen Williams, P.E., is the stormwater program manager for New Orleans, a place that has experienced disruption like nowhere else. This coastal city is particularly vulnerable to the stronger storms associated with climate change.

Williams, who witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina firsthand, is changing how things are done and applying data-informed, innovative ideas to this historic city. Her team is reducing flood risks with bioswales, pervious ground layers, and stormwater parks. Her projects bring together multiple stakeholders—including city administrators, engineers, construction teams, and the public—and leverage historic data to design for a resilient future.

Platforms, with end-to-end solutions built on a common data experience, are perfect places for such projects. They create a unified experience, lift people out of their silos, and deliver the right information to the right people at the right time. All of that happens in the cloud, far from the noise and chaos of disruption down below. At the rate things are going, 95% of all work will take place on cloud-based platforms by 2025.

Autodesk is keeping pace with this trend, empowering three key industries—manufacturing, media and entertainment, and AEC—to be more innovative, productive, and profitable by bringing everything together on industry clouds. The three industry clouds, along with a shared set of services (called Autodesk Platform Services, formerly Forge), make solutions more connected, extensible, and open.

A woman holds a tablet in front of a robotic arm.

With digital design and manufacturing linked together by a cloud-based platform, collaborators can contribute to projects from literally anywhere.

Connecting people and data for frictionless workflows

Connectivity has never been more important. When the pandemic emerged, two-thirds of people in the United States who could work remotely did. Now, that’s leveled off at a new normal with 45% of remote-capable jobs being performed out of the office at least part of the time (and 25% fully remote). This evolution of work requires a shift to a new paradigm. The cloud has become the new collaboration space, whether colleagues are in the office next door or on the other side of the world.

At the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) polar research station, scientists study the global impacts of climate change. Their work requires incredibly sturdy infrastructure, especially in its extreme environment. BAS has invested £300 million (about $354 million) to build a new research vessel and upgrade its wharf and facilities. The projects are complex and require careful coordination with stakeholders around the globe, led by engineering firm BAM International in the Netherlands, Swedish architecture and construction consultancy Sweco, engineering firm Rambøll in Denmark, and the team in Antarctica.

With much of the prefabrication happening in the UK, the teams must get everything ready for the small window of time they have for on-site construction between October and March. The schedule is tight, and there’s no room for error or missing parts. That’s why they’re managing this project on the cloud. Every bit of data is connected and shared, and different programs are compatible for frictionless end-to-end workflows and seamless collaboration from the far reaches of the globe.

In the future, customers like BAS will use Autodesk Forma, the AEC industry cloud, to connect the entire process from concept through construction. Over time, Forma will also enable continued transformation of building information modeling (BIM).

A woman working at a video editing station.

With hundreds of people on just one film, a cloud-based solution lets a story be told from anywhere in the world.

Better asset management in the cloud

In another realm—the imaginary worlds created by the entertainment industry—movies contain more data in a single shot than most people can appreciate. And a film can have thousands of shots. Factor in visual effects, and the amount of data that goes into making a single film is mind-blowing.

Comprehending that amount of data is like trying to fathom that there are 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy and 200 billion galaxies in the universe. In some cases, movie data can require a petabyte of storage, which is equivalent to 1,000 terabytes. And it takes hundreds of people working behind the scenes on multiple devices and in multiple locations to make it all happen.

Movie magic through fluid collaboration

Industry clouds, such as Autodesk Flow for media and entertainment, will create centralized asset-management systems where all project information can live and be shared throughout the entire project lifecycle for fluid collaboration and project continuity.

Amazon Studios, the production arm of Amazon, has a slate of several hundred original movies and television series, including the company’s biggest production to date: Rings of Power, an expansion of The Lord of the Rings franchise. The project involved 9,000 shots for an eight-hour series and took the work of five visual-effects companies.

In the future, to manage all these moving parts and enable collaboration among production teams, media and entertainment companies will use Flow to streamline all the creative workflows and deliver their epic narratives.

A woman holds a 3D printed prototype while sitting in front of a laptop with generative design software opened.

Cloud-based platforms allow designers and fabricators to collaborate on 3D printed prototypes from around the world.

An explosion of innovation

By design, cloud-based platforms enable data interoperability and real-time collaboration. But they’re also incubators of innovation. In fact, McKinsey estimates that the ability to boost innovation will generate 75% of the cloud’s value. With a common data experience, people can brainstorm and have that energizing back-and-forth that ignites new ideas. Collaborators can be literally anywhere, enabling contribution from a diversity of stakeholders with different visions.

At BBI Autosport in Huntington Beach, CA, manufacturing and innovation go hand in hand. The company designs and builds aftermarket performance parts for Porsche that are used on both the racetrack and the road. But it’s more than just a factory. This small but agile team of machinists are also Porsche enthusiasts who know these cars inside and out. Innovation is the heart and soul of this shop.

The team collaborates with designers and fabricators around the world. They iterate and prototype, using 3D printing to make their parts lighter and faster. Generative design allows them to simulate the performance of parts to test for speed and agility and find just the right solution. They do that in the cloud with Fusion 360 (which will be part of Autodesk Fusion, the industry cloud for manufacturing) to create these incredible, one-of-a-kind vehicles.

Cloud-based platforms improve business outcomes

When companies streamline workflows into one data-driven experience, they become more efficient, more sustainable, and more innovative. They better position themselves to improve business outcomes and solve the world’s biggest challenges. From the top floor to the shop floor, from script to screen, and from building concept to construction, platforms create an opportunity to do things not only better but also completely differently.

Andrew Anagnost is Autodesk’s president and chief executive officer. A version of this article ran previously on Redshift

2023 State of Design & Make

Find out what’s driving change in architecture, engineering, construction, product design, manufacturing, games, and filmmaking in this new global research report from Autodesk.

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